Statement on Racism

Statement on Racism

The faculty of the UTM Biology Department joins with protestors across Canada, in the United States and around the world to condemn racism. We cannot remain silent while watching the abuse and killing of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and so many others in the USA, Canada and elsewhere. We cannot ignore the systemic bias revealed by the pattern of death brought on by the COVID-19 Pandemic that discriminates against communities underserved by health care systems. We cannot pretend that these things are new. Racially motivated killing and systemic biases are not new, and the research and higher education community is not without its role in all of this.

Our department acknowledges that the the legacy of racism affects all aspects of our lives and is evident in the history and practice of science as well as other parts of academic institutional life, including in Canada. As we join others to condemn anti-Black racism, we also look in the mirror. Here at UTM, we renew our support of black colleagues, students, and staff through active allyship, continuous unlearning and listening. We renew our support to all equity-seeking groups and to ending institutional racism. We commit to raising our awareness of how this invidious process creeps into scientific practice so that we can eliminate racism of any form, step by step.

More broadly we condemn all bigotry, which is still far too prevalent in the scientific community and society at large. We commit ourselves to being part of the creation of a more just and equitable scientific community and we will start with ourselves. We use our words with hope that even in these times they remain mightier than the sword, and that this university can be an agent for positive change in the interconnected small world that surrounds us. Toward this vision, we have made a financial donation on behalf of the Department’s faculty, students and staff to the Malton Black Development Association (http://maltonbda.org/about-mbda/).

The Biology Graduate Student Society (BGSS) has written a statement (see below) to express outrage against anti-Black racism and in support of the current wave of protests triggered by the killing of George Floyd. Our students also recognize that the legacy of racism is a part of the character of Biology, our chosen profession. Their statement contains the beginning of a discussion on racism in science that represents one step towards putting our professional house in order as well as a list of resources for anyone interested in learning more about this topic and supporting current protests. The faculty of Biology supports our students as they work to build a better future.                                    

Sincerely yours,

Joel Levine

Joel Levine
Professor and Chair

STATEMENT OF THE BIOLOGY GRADUATE STUDENT SOCIETY

To our community,

In light of recent events, we at BGSS wish to make clear that we stand in solidarity with the protests against systemic anti-Black racism and police brutality. The killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, David McAtee, Breonna Taylor and more all come at the head of a long, revolting history of unjust policing and systemic injustice against Black people in North America and abroad. We stand explicitly and unconditionally with our Black student body here at UTM, the country, and abroad. Furthermore, we recognize the longstanding histories and systems that maintain racial inequality across our society, including within science, academia, and higher education. It is incumbent on all of us, regardless of our various identities or lived experiences, to come together to combat discrimination of any kind in order to build a more just and equitable society, and that includes here in our own academic department.

It’s easy to dismiss this as a uniquely American problem, and as something that doesn’t affect us north of the border, but the fact is that anti-Blackness rears its insidious head just as well in our country. Some examples of police brutality and violence we’ve seen right here in Toronto include the reckless, violent behaviour we saw from riot police during the G20 protests ten years ago; unjustified street checks (‘carding’) that disproportionately targeted people of colour; and the murders of Andrew Loku and many, many others. Many of these are highlighted in the Ontario Human Rights Commission’s 2018 report on policing of Black communities by Toronto PD. Certainly there are ways in which Canada lags behind other western nations in racial justice; to give one simple example, recall that the University of Toronto only began collecting racial demographics of the student body four years ago. The persistent absence of collecting COVID-related data with demographics remains an egregious example of the “one size fits all” fallacy and reflects a longstanding practice of failing to recognize the need for such data to address specific needs of Black communities. Our country has its own long and ugly history of hatred and prejudice against Black people and against Indigenous people, and it’s high time that we confronted it and strove to make things right. At the end of the day, racism doesn’t care about borders; it not only thrives within our own but also passes back and forth across them. Racism is a global problem, and as such, it demands a global effort to eradicate.

Please see here for a list of resources and ways to contribute.